Thursday, April 29, 2010
I just got Jason into soccer and it’s been wonderful to watch his reactions to everything he is learning. Within, let’s say, two months, he has become a diehard Spurs fan (COYS), adores The Special One and can scream profanities like nobodies’ business. He also looks like Fàbregas, so that (weirdly) kind of helps (despite the fact that he hates Arsenal—another learned behaviour). Anyway, watching Jason watch soccer has made me re-examine the concept of the fan. While I have written a lot on hooliganism, I think there is something to be said about the “regular, run of the mill” fan as well. So, after attending Sunday’s TFC game (sitting with the North End Elite to boot), Monday’s Jays game (sitting four rows from the very top of the Skydome to boot) and finally, today’s Barca – Inter (on my family room couch to boot), I would like to discuss “The Fan.”
Steve got me tickets to sit with the NEE on Sunday’s game against Seattle. I first want to point out that I have never sat within a club before so I was interested in having the experience. It was pretty shitty day: cold, dark, grey, and rainy (Oxford Comma!) but I was excited for not only the NEE, but also because it was my first game at the stadium this season. TFC did not disappoint with a 2-0 win (though we missed the first goal to get curry fries) over the Sounders. Don’t get me wrong, TFC still needs some work, but Frei and DeRo are fantastic. And it was pretty cool to see Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg playing as well (despite Ljungberg not jumping into the stands to sweep me off my feet mid game). So, between the anti-Mo signs, the Dichio chant at the 24th, the bouncing and the game itself I had a full day of observation.
I am hesitant to comment on TFC fans, because I don’t want to offend or be taken the wrong way. I am treading carefully here because I am conscious about what I am writing, but nothing pisses me off more than to watch things from the stands (streamers, beer cups etc.) being thrown during corners. I mean, I feel like a lot of Toronto fans are awful because they feel like they can get away with it in the “safe space” of soccer. They’re allowed to act like hooligans because it can be expected.
That being said, they also do a lot of good. There are four clubs within TFC, despite the team only being four years old. Fans know the chants, the cheers and the nuances that happen at every game and it’s wonderful to see. Rather than watching the game, they want to be a part of the game; participants instead of just observers. To TFC the game is just as much about the match as it is about their own preformativity. I love going to TFC games for that atmosphere (stepping aside from the above mentioned atmosphere), for the love of club. It’s almost enough to bring a tear to the eye. TFC fans are really the best in MLS.
[Side Note: NEE were wonderful and they really made my experience interesting].
v Jays Fans
This is compared to the Jays’ fans. I went to Monday’s game because I had visitors from Boston (they were playing the Red Sox). Now, I played forms of baseball (soft, t, etc.) for over a decade so I am familiar with the game, and was surprised about how great it ended up being (13-12 for Boston). It’s no secret that the Jays have had low turnouts lately (ticket prices do not help and we weren’t even allowed to move down to the thousands—literally!—of empty seats below), but the fans that were there seemed generally interested in the game. I mean, we did see a bunch of people thrown out, but other than that, people seemed pretty happy to be there. But it was so quiet! They couldn’t even get the wave going. No uniformed chants, cheers, call and answers (other than at the seven inning stretch) which, to me, is weird, considering how much older the Jays are as a team.
Let me ask you this then (seriously, feel free to answer in the comments section): what makes soccer fans so different, so uniformed, at and as one, than other sports? I don’t mean the assholes who cause a ruckus and throw shit, but rather those in the brotherhood (and sisterhood?) of footie. How could I be screaming NNE chants within 2 minutes of sitting with them having never heard (most of) them before, whereas Jays’ fans (who seem to want to be there) can’t muster raising their arms for a split second. In fact, the guy starting the wave was in a Boston cap.
Watching Jason become of a fan, watching him learn the performance, is fascinating. There are ways of being "in" the world of soccer, to let others know you’re a fan that no other sport possesses. What I am interested are these underlying codes, these understand negotiations and the concepts of performativity. I am trying to take this idea further, so please feel free to comment.
I should probably mention something about Barca – Inter, but I am still in awe.